‘First Wives Club’ Debuts on Blu-ray in ‘Paramount Presents’ Line June 28

The comedy The First Wives Club arrives on Blu-ray for the first time as part of the “Paramount Presents” line on June 28 from Paramount Home Entertainment.

Starring Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton, the 1996 comedy has been remastered from a 4K film transfer for this new release.  The “Paramount Presents” Blu-ray includes collectible packaging with a foldout image of the film’s original theatrical poster, as well as a new Filmmaker Focus with screenwriter Robert Harling.

Loaded with one-liners, physical gags, and satire, The First Wives Club tells the story of three Manhattanites with more than a longtime friendship in common — they’ve all been dumped by their husbands for newer models.  Determined to turn their pain into gain, they are determined not to get mad, but get everything. 

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The supporting cast includes Maggie Smith, Dan Hedaya, Bronson Pinchot, Marcia Gay Harden, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rob Reiner, Stockard Channing and Elizabeth Berkley.

Gravitas Ventures Launches Theatrical Shingle With Diane Keaton Film

Gravitas Ventures has launched a new theatrical release label, Gravitas Premiere. The first release under the shingle will be the comedy Mack & Rita, starring Diane Keaton, which will debut theatrically in North America Aug. 12.

Streaming service Hulu is a Pay-1 U.S. partner on the film, and Hulu subscribers will be able to stream Mack & Rita beginning Dec. 20.

Gravitas Premiere will acquire four to six cast-driven, high production value films per year and release them wide theatrically with significant P&A support, according to the company.

In Mack & Rita, Mackenzie Martin (Elizabeth Lail) is tired of doing all the things she has to do to keep up and get ahead in her 30s. Since she was a little girl, Mack’s deepest wish is to be just like her Grammie: comfortable in her own skin, great at saying “no,” and largely unburdened by what others think of her. While at her best friend’s bachelorette party in Palm Springs, Mack stumbles into a sound bath regression pod and emerges a 70-year-old woman. Now transformed as “Aunt Rita” (Keaton), Mack thinks she will finally find self-acceptance, but quickly learns the reality of skipping to old age isn’t quite what she imagined.

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“We are delighted to launch Gravitas Premiere with the acquisition of Mack & Rita, which solidifies our commitment to championing the cinematic in-theater experience,” said Nolan Gallagher, Gravitas Ventures founder and CEO. “People love going to the movies and this film is an excitingly fresh and insightful comedy that needs to be experienced on the big screen. Mack & Rita is the type of high-quality, independently-produced story we are seeking to acquire through Gravitas Premiere, and we look forward to collaborating with our exhibition partners in bringing the film to theaters wide across North America.”

“We’re so thrilled to be working on Mack & Rita with the incredible team at Gravitas Ventures as they launch their new label, Gravitas Premiere. Their support and collaborative spirit, as well as their commitment to a wide theatrical release, are a dream for us as filmmakers,” said Mack & Rita director Katie Aselton and producer Alex Saks.

Restored Warren Beatty Films ‘Reds’ and ‘Heaven Can Wait’ Due on Blu-ray Nov. 30

Two restored Warren Beatty films, Reds and Heaven Can Wait, are being released on Blu-ray Disc Nov. 30 from Paramount Home Entertainment.

Beatty stars in (as well as produces, co-writes, and co-directs) the comedy Heaven Can Wait, which has been fully restored and remastered from the original negative under Beatty’s supervision.

Directed by Beatty and Buck Henry, with a screenplay by Elaine May and Beatty, the film also stars Julie Christie, James Mason, Charles Grodin, Dyan Cannon, Buck Henry, Vincent Gardenia and Jack Warden.  The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Beatty and Henry), Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Beatty and May), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Beatty), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Warden), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Cannon), and more.

The film follows Joe Pendleton (Beatty), a Los Angeles Rams backup quarterback ready to lead the team all the way to the Super Bowl until an overzealous guardian angel prematurely plucks him from the living. When he’s returned to Earth in the body of millionaire industrialist Leo Farnsworth, he inherits a world of challenges, including winning the love of a woman (Christie) who hates Farnsworth.

The Blu-ray includes the feature film in high-definition and access to a digital copy of the film.

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Directed, co-written, produced by and starring Beatty, Reds celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. The story of a radical American journalist embroiled in the Bolshevik revolution  was originally released on Dec. 25, 1981. Paramount will release the film in a two-disc Blu-ray set, newly restored under Beatty’s supervision. The film was restored and remastered from the original negative in 4K with high dynamic range using a vintage print from the Paramount archives as a reference, which was approved by Academy Award-winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro.

Punctuated by interviews with real-life activists and witnesses to the revolution, Reds depicts the love story between activists John Reed (Beatty) and Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton) set against the outbreak of World War I and the rise of communism in Russia.  In addition to Keaton and Beatty, the film’s cast includes Jack Nicholson, Edward Herrmann, Gene Hackman, Paul Sorvino and Maureen Stapleton, whose performance won her an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

The film garnered 12 Academy Award nominations and won three, including Best Director for Beatty. The Oscar-nominated screenplay was written by Beatty and Trevor Griffiths.

The new Blu-ray set includes more than an hour of legacy bonus content, as well as access to a digital copy of the film.

Rom-com ‘Love, Weddings & Other Disasters’ Heads to Disc Feb. 2

Lionsgate will release the zany romantic comedy Love, Weddings & Other Disasters on Blu-ray Disc (with digital copy) and DVD Feb. 2, 2021.

With a couple’s impending wedding as the backdrop, the film weaves multiple storylines as it follows the search for love by a colorful group of characters. One features an inexperienced wedding planner (Maggie Grace) nicknamed “The Wedding Trasher”; another focuses on a tour-bus guide (Andrew Bachelor) looking for his Cinderella. Then there’s the story of a fussy celebrity caterer (Jeremy Irons) pursuing his blind date (Diane Keaton), who turns out to actually be blind.

Extras include an audio commentary with co-screenwriter and director Dennis Dugan; descriptive audio commentary for the blind; and the featurette “A Celebration: Making Love, Weddings, and Other Disasters.”

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Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 12/8/20;
Paramount;
Drama;
$22.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for violence and language.
Stars Al Pacino, Andy Garcia, Talia Shire, Sofia Coppola, George Hamilton, Diane Keaton, Eli Wallach, Joe Mantegna, Bridget Fonda, Richard Bright, Donal Donnelly, Raf Vallone.

For his latest trick, director Francis Ford Coppola has taken on the challenge of re-editing the oft-maligned The Godfather Part III into something a bit more palatable for fans of the first two “Godfather” films.

The legendary filmmaker has been busy lately quite literally reimagining his career. Last year saw new edits of Apocalypse Now and Cotton Club hit Blu-ray (in the form of Apocalypse Now: Final Cut and Cotton Club Encore, respectively). Those efforts may have given him the nerve to revisit the concluding film of the “Godfather” saga for its 30th anniversary.

Coppola has trimmed the film by 13 minutes (from 170 minutes to a tighter 157), rearranged a few scenes to improve the main story’s pacing, and reworked the film’s opening and closing scenes. He also reverted the title to what he preferred it to be when he was making it with original “Godfather” novelist and screenwriter Mario Puzo. In calling it a Coda with the subtitle “The Death of Michael Corleone,” Coppola sees the film more along the lines of his original intentions — as an epilogue to the story of the original films.

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In the third movie, set in 1979 and 1980, the aging Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) reflects on his decades in charge of one of America’s most notorious crime families, and continues to strive for the legitimacy he claimed to be pursuing in the first two films, which took place in the 1940s and 1950s. He embarks on a scheme to buy out a European conglomerate partly owned by the Vatican, but runs headlong into church corruption and rivals unwilling to give up the old ways.

The story quite cleverly plays into a few real-life events from the late 1970s and early 1980s, namely the death of Pope John Paul I after just a month after his ascendency, and a church banking scandal — though the script has to massage the actual timeline in order to fit the fictional Corleones into the proceedings.

Coppola’s new vision of the third “Godfather” comes complete with a sumptuous new digital restoration. The Blu-ray presentation of the new version comes devoid of extras save for a minute-and-a-half introduction from Coppola, who basically recounts his reasons for the new edit that were already quoted in Paramount’s press release announcing it.

In terms of the film’s new structure, however, some of the cosmetic changes and the shorter running time make the film a bit easier to handle as a standalone movie, but many of the problems that plagued the film upon its original release aren’t so easy to erase.

The first two “Godfather” films on their own tell an almost perfect circular narrative — the contrast in the rise of power between Vito Corleone and his son, Michael, 30 or so years apart. That they were made within two years of each other — 1972 and 1974 — only deepens the connection between the two films as broader, singular work.

It’s no coincidence, then, that supercuts of the first two films in chronological order were already being broadcast on TV by 1977.

Thus, when the third film, released 16 years after the second, by design focuses solely on Michael’s older years and his attempts to transition the family away from crime, it is only natural to compare it with the original, in which the older Vito also hinted at wanting to go legit after tiring of bloodshed. It is not a comparison that works favorably to Part III, despite its many positive traits.

That inevitable comparison may have been why Coppola was reluctant to make a third film to begin with, and when he finally agreed to do it (after reportedly encountering financial problems due to some of his films underperforming in the 1980s), his instincts told him to make it more of an epilogue to the saga rather than a continuation of it. It was the studio that saddled the film with the Part III moniker, and likely the pressure to make it an epic on the scale of the first two (both of which won Best Picture Oscars).

Interestingly, in recutting the film, Coppola discards the leisurely pacing of the original edit, and the entire ceremony of Michael being honored by the Vatican, by moving the scene of Vatican’s banking representative asking Michael for help to be the new opening scene. This new structure is similar enough to how the first film opens, with the mortician asking Don Vito for help, that the obvious intention is to further explore the parallels between the father and son crime lords. If there’s no way to rework the foundations of the film as a whole to get it to measure up, at least its ambitions as a character study give it weight.

It’s an interesting contrast. Vito’s eldest son, Sonny, is so eager to replace his father as a criminal mastermind that his shortsightedness gets him killed, putting Michael in line to take over the family business, a path Vito never intended. The only ambitions of Michael’s eldest son, Anthony, lead him to becoming an opera singer. With Michael’s daughter, Mary, the lynchpin of his attempts to legitimize, Michael has nowhere to turn but his nephew, Vincent, Sonny’s illegitimate son, to serve as the new Don.

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Coppola’s new ending seems to tread on the subtitle as more of a symbolic notion of the main character’s death, rather than the literal one that seemed tacked onto the original theatrical cut.

The further examination of Michael and his ill-fated attempts to scrub his sins are still the film’s greatest asset, even if Pacino’s portrayal seems more akin to his prototypical ’90s persona than his earlier performances as the character. The film’s most-glaring weakness, however, remains the casting of Sofia Coppola in the key role of Mary. The part had originally been intended for Julia Roberts, who dropped out due to scheduling conflicts, and then Winona Ryder, who left just before production due to nervous exhaustion, leaving the director to cast his own daughter in the role.

On paper, Mary’s pivotal place in Michael’s final arc is clear: She’s the shining beacon who will salvage the family’s legacy, much in the same way Vito originally envisioned Michael, but those expectations are threatened when she literally flirts with the criminal underpinnings of the family business, in the form of her cousin, Vincent (Andy Garcia). A more talented performer would have imbued Mary with a life and vibrance that forces the audience to care about her in a way that elevates the film’s reliance on her character. As much as she evolved into a talented director and screenwriter in her own right, Sofia is just not an actress, and her flat performance serves mostly to distract from the strong inter-generational dynamics between Pacino and Garcia — a criticism leveled as much at the film in 1990 as it is today. Given Mary’s foundational position to the story’s emotional underpinnings, no amount of re-editing can minimize that impact.

However, at least Mary’s arc is there for viewers to interpret. A more fundamental problem for the film is the complete absence of Tom Hagen, Robert Duvall’s character from the first two films who was practically another son to Vito and served as the family’s lawyer. Duvall opted out of the project due to a pay dispute, so Hagen was said to have died offscreen and George Hamilton was brought in to play a new family lawyer in a perfunctory role. Without Duvall, the screenplay was forced to put more emphasis on Vincent and especially Mary.

There’s no telling how much an expanded role for Duvall, with Hagen at the heart of the Corleone moral quandaries, would have elevated the film’s potential to stand alongside its predecessors.

Comedy ‘Book Club’ Due on Digital Aug. 14, Disc Aug. 28

Book Club, starring Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen, will be released on digital Aug. 14 and on Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD Aug. 28 from Paramount Home Media Distribution.

In the film, Keaton, Fonda, Bergen and Steenburgen star as four lifelong friends whose lives are turned upside down when their book club attempts to shake things up by tackling the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey. Book Club also stars Andy Garcia, Don Johnson, Craig T. Nelson, Richard Dreyfuss and Ed Begley Jr.

Bonus features on the Blu-ray Combo Pack (with a digital copy and DVD of the film) include deleted and extended scenes, interviews with filmmakers and cast, explorations of the writing and casting process, and behind-the-scenes footage from the set.